England claimed a first ever series win in New Zealand as a final-quarter fightback saw them beat the world champions 49-45 in Christchurch.
After a tight start, the Silver Ferns opened up a 10-goal lead at half-time.
But the introduction of Eleanor Cardwell in the shooting circle allowed England to find their flow and they went into the final 15 four goals down.
Serena Guthrie’s turnover helped the visitors to a narrow lead with 10 minutes left and they held on to win.
“We showed grit and that is something we can build on,” England defender Geva Mentor, who returned to the side this series after two years away, said on Sky Sports.
England head coach Jess Thirlby told BBC Radio 5 Live the victory was a “huge achievement” and praised the way her team has coped with uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We took a bit of a leap of faith stepping on the plane because we didn’t have all of the information from the New Zealand government,” she said.
“It was frustrating when we arrived to find we were in a full, hard quarantine – everybody in their own individual rooms. It did take its toll.
“I completely admire the way in which the players and the staff have handled the whole situation.”
England lost the series 3-0 last time they visited New Zealand in 2020 and after taking a brief lead at the beginning of the match it looked as if another defeat was on the cards.
The Roses squandered turnovers as they struggled to get into the shooting circle and New Zealand seized their moment with a fluid attack to lead 26-16 at half-time.
Cardwell replaced goal shooter George Fisher at the break and seemed to be the key to England’s attack, helping them cut the Silver Ferns’ lead to 36-32 at the end of the third quarter.
And it was Guthrie’s defence that proved decisive in the end, with the captain’s tip allowing her side to take the lead and ultimately claim a historic victory.
Both sides’ preparations were hindered by the coronavirus pandemic and it is still uncertain whether England’s planned series against Australia can go ahead.
“It is testament to this group and the resilience we’ve showed to just get here,” Mentor said.
“The S and Cs [strength and conditioning coaches] had to put together really good plans for us to prepare in our rooms. We were running around clocking up 5km in our rooms.
“We’ll wait to see if we’re off to Australia or not.”
Mentor hailed England’s “great squad” as they prepare to defend their Commonwealth Games title on home soil in 2022, adding: “We are all fighting for positions but we’re all encouraging each other to get out there and put in our best performances.”
New Zealand: Jury, Burger, Winders (capt), Kersten, Saunders, Selby-Rickit, Wilson.
Replacements: Hume, Nweke, Poi, Toeva, Tong.
England: Mentor, Guscoth, Cobden, Guthrie (capt), Malcolm, Drakeford-Lewis, Fisher.
Replacements: Allison, Cardwell, Clarke, Joseph, Williams.
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